Batman Gallery

The history of the Batman Gallery is detailed in the book “O Her Blackness Sparkles!” The Life and Times of the Batman Art Gallery, San Francisco 1960-1965, by Jack Foley.

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The Batman Gallery at 2222 Fillmore Street in San Francisco © Ecliptic Gallery, the Mike Agron Collection

According to Jack Foley, the original concept for a cutting edge gallery came from the artist William Jahrmarkt with the support of Bruce Conner who, along with his poet friend, Michael McClure, searched around San Francisco for a suitable space and found 2222 Fillmore Street. The Batman was originally owned by Joan and William Jahrmarkt. William, nicknamed “Billy Batman”, was a complicated and short-lived young artist. The Batman name, according to Bruce Conner, was poet Michael McClure’s idea — “You know battling the forces of evil” — but the name was particularly suited to the black-haired, frequently black-clad Jahrmarkt. However, there were problems and while the gallery opened spectacularly it didn’t function very well.

In February 1962, the gallery was sold to Michael Agron who managed it with his wife until 1965. Agron’s vision for Batman Gallery was made clear from the start:

“Our aim is not just to be a gallery showing competent artists – there are many fine ones in the Bay area – but rather to be a San Francisco institution which contributed to the cultural growth of the people of the Bay area by finding and exhibiting the rare and unusual creative talent and genius of individuals who are making art history as they cut the trail into art’s future. Many artists know how to speak eloquently with paint; few have something to say which is worth listening to…The Batman is the gallery which specialises in showing artists who are very bold and imaginative in exploring the frontiers of creative art – it is a young gallery 2 years in San Francisco with a vigorous forward looking spirit. Shows at Batman can be counted on to be provocative and exciting. The Batman … gravitated to the artists who had developed their aesthetic sense exploring in new directions, going out into new worlds”.

That this was achieved is reflected by Michael McClure who said 20 years later in Jack Foley’s book, “It is about the elegant revolt of a community of young artists who were not content to be outlawed by the social structure. The Batman Gallery of San Francisco in the 1960’s allowed a group of artists and poets to push into their destinies with a dark showcase that continues to give off light. The author creates a time-capsule picture of the “Batman” with all of its glistenings and doubts. This is recommended for those who love art.”


CHRONOLOGY

1960

Nov 3 — Inaugural show – Bruce Conner
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Dec 4 – Jan 1 — Gangbang – group exhibition
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Dec 22 — !The Feast! – a play by Michael McClure
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1961

Jan 12 – Feb 8 — Recent Paintings by Joan Brown
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Feb 14 – Mar 13 — Paintings and Drawings by Robert Ronnie Branaman; Chapel Abyss – an installation by George Herms
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Mar 24 – Apr 23 — Paintings by George Abend
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May 3 – Jun 3 — Constructions by George Herms
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Jul 4 – Aug 6 — Works by Dean Fleming
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Oct  8 – Nov 8 — Paintings & Drawings by Bernice Bing
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1962

Feb — Master-bat Show -group show

Mar 21 – Mar 31 — Works by Bruce Conner
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Apr 10 – Apr 30 — Picture-Poems by Paul Reps
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May 8 – May 31 — Works by Barry Hall
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June — Group Show

Sep — Group Show

Oct — Paintings by Anthony Martin

Nov — Group show

1963

Feb — Constructions and Collages – Jose Manuel dos Santos Cross and Charles Plymell

Mar — Paintings by Robert R Branaman

May — Group show

Jun — Decoupages by Peter Tuesday Hewes

Oct — Oil Paintings and Sculpture by Bill Risdon

Nov — Paintings, Graphics, and Constructions by Arran Blackburn Stepens

1964

Jan — Drawings by Robert Hudson

Feb — Drawings by Steve Elvin

May — Trinity Forms by M.C. Press

… to be continued…


Further reading and resources:

Ecliptic Gallery

Ever Gold Gallery